WEST LAFAYETTE — Purdue University plans to hire more than 100 new engineering professors and boost engineering enrollment by 10 percent over the next five years to help move the school to the top of the engineering field, the acting president said.
Purdue had faced a choice: either reduce the number of students admitted to the College of Engineering to ensure quality standards are maintained or add new faculty to cope with growing undergraduate enrollment, acting President Tim Sands said Tuesday. The school's enrollment jumped 17 percent between 2006 and 2011 to 7,087.
"We are ... concerned some of our Indiana students were finding it harder to get into engineering, and we don't want to do that. We should be serving them," Sands said.
Purdue could invest up to $200 million initially in the new hiring of junior and senior staffers.
Leah Jamieson, dean of the College of Engineering, said as many as 107 new professors in mechanical, astronautics and biomechanical engineering will be hired in the next five years, increasing their ranks from 358 to 465.The effort will add to the school's new environmental and ecological engineering division, which recently was given state approval to offer bachelor's degrees.
Purdue College of Engineering stands joint 10th with Texas and Princeton universities in the U.S. News World Report's ranking of best undergraduate engineering programs.
President-elect of the National Society of Professional Engineers Robert Green told the Journal & Courier for a Wednesday story that Purdue's plan will attract national attention in light of recent shrinking higher education funding amid a recession that's reduced endowments and forced states to cut appropriations.
"Announcing to hire 100 new faculty at any institution will make a lot of people take notice," he said.
Green said the general trend in recent years has been for engineering schools everywhere to go slow on hiring faculty and yet admit more students. He said the nation needs more licensed, professional engineers.
Support staff could grow by 105 if all the professors are hired as planned, including lab managers, academic advisers and additions to the college's business and information technology office. This would boost college support staff to about 480.
Jamieson said Purdue may need to lease additional offices to accommodate the new hires.